March 27, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
Making judiciary accountable
Established in 1956, five years after the end of Rana autocracy, Nepal Bar Association (NBA) has come a long way. Before NBA, lawyers were granted license based on their experience in the legal field. The independent legal institution for a long time has been entrusted with the task of issuing license to lawyers, taking disciplinary action against those who fail on their duties and most importantly working as a watchdog. In the recent times, however, NBA itself seems to be mired in political influence and undue political meddling so much so that the NBA office bearers do not raise unified voice against irregularities in Nepal’s justice delivery institutions—the courts and the Supreme Court. The case in point is Nepal Bar’s divided stand on controversies surrounding Gopal Parajuli. While former Chief Justice’s academic credentials, date of birth and faulty verdicts had come under media criticism and when civil society was voicing demands for action, Nepal Bar was a mere spectator—the head of NBA even declined to speak against CJ Parajuli’s alleged wrongdoing. NBA failed on its mandated duties.
In this context, it is welcome that lawyers have raised the need for proactive role of NBA and other legal fraternity in ensuring transparency and accountability in judiciary. The 14th National Conference of Lawyers that concluded in Nepalgunj on Sunday has endorsed 28-point declaration that calls for, among other things, curtailing powers of CJ to control corruption in the judiciary, making public property details of CJ, Judicial Council members and judges of all three tiers of the judiciary and restoring judicial integrity. The conference has demanded that Judicial Council, NBA, Nepal Bar Council (NBC) and other regulatory bodies should be strictly vigilant against activities of judges, court staffers, lawyers and brokers and take action against corruption and irregularities.
Indeed, if these goals can be achieved we will be a step ahead in ensuring transparency and accountability of judicial bodies and legal actors for corruption in judiciary has become an open secret in the recent times. The conference has rightly identified that we are lagging behind in promulgating laws to ensure implementation of fundamental rights ensured by the constitution. We need more research departments at NBA and NBC in order to make the officials more competent. But this alone won’t be sufficient. NBA and NBC should first keep themselves away from undue political meddling. Often our BAR officials act like spokespersons of political parties they are affiliated with and they are often found to be supporting even wrong moves taken by certain political parties, instead of taking a unified common stand. This should stop. NBA can and must act as a strong watchdog to control all sorts of irregularities and mismanagement in judiciary. They can do a lot if they are able to maintain the much needed integrity. Every just measure should be taken to uphold the image of judiciary and keep people’s faith in judges intact. The National Conference of Lawyers has spoken the right words. We hope their commitments and pledges will materialize soon.